Your Questions: Answered - Written by on Tuesday, August 12, 2014 23:48 - 0 Comments

The recipe for a compliant summer internship program

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Azubis positivDear Barry & Richard,

My company runs a summer internship program and applications to participate close in the Spring.

Every year I typically receive extra requests outside the program, in July and August, to provide a week or two vacation placement work experience for kids who are the children of people who know colleagues of mine.

When I tell my colleagues in the business that the deadline for applications has been missed I am met with pleas to make an exception in this or that case, told that the commitment has already been made or that I’m just not being very commercial.

On the other side of the coin though I have read that an internship could be a bribe and so I don’t know what to do.

Should I cancel the internship program?

Barry and Richard Answer

Don’t cancel the internship program.

You are not alone in dealing with these challenges.

Back in the day when an internship was called work experience it was common practice for someone to pull a few strings to ensure that the sons and daughters of customers of a business could get some work experience over the summer holidays.

An internship has value and so in theory could be a potential bribe in the right (or wrong) circumstances.  Ask JP Morgan what they think about offering jobs to relatives of customers.  In China they are undertaking a very expensive FCPA investigation about the recruitment of so-called princelings…

That said. We are pro internship programs and would not exclude sons and daughters of customers, among others, benefitting from some time spent working in your business over the summer period.

But, the situation you describe is far from ideal.

We recommend that the internship program, the process for it and the deadlines, are stuck to.

That process should be transparent and should include a declaration from the person applying or requesting the internship if they have a connection directly or indirectly with the business including, for example, if their mum or dad is a customer of the firm.

If that is the case then it can be reviewed in the context of the business ABC policy, in the same way that perhaps corporate hospitality might be, to make sure this is not a problem.  If an approval is needed then it can be obtained (assuming it is appropriate) as part of the approval processes within the ABC program which already exists.

While on the face of it some might argue that it is red tape gone mad to refuse a request by one of your salesman to give an internship to the son or daughter of an important customer just because the time deadline has expired – at best it creates a poor impression if this is what you do.

Creating exceptions to the rule along the lines you describe in a kind of internship anarchy sets a poor precedent and creates a climate where rules can be bent in the right circumstances for the relative of a customer.

Ask JP Morgan.  That is the thin end of the wedge.



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